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Free Joe Friday 10/22/10 – Hats at Work, Copyrighting Music, and More

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Every Friday, attorney Joe Escalante answers legal questions for free on the LegalZoom Facebook Page. Did you miss last week’s Free Joe Friday? Don’t fret. We’ve got it all right here.

Rob asks: Can a job legally require you to wear a hat?

Joe Escalante: Yes. Many jobs require a uniform so a hat could be included as a required uniform. Jobs can’t do things that violate your civil rights. Not wearing is not a valuable right that Americans expect to have. But if the hat violated a religious belief, you might have an argument but it better be good. By the way, you’re a trouble maker.

From Eufemia: Many potential employers are now requiring that applicants take all kinds of tests prior to getting an interview. This can include the Thurstone assessment, and other combinations of IQ/Personality/SAT-style tests. Is it legal to screen people out based on these results? Do applicants have the right to a copy of the test results, just like they do for a background check report?

Joe Escalante: If you are talking about a job where workers are not represented by a collective bargaining agreement banning such practices, employers can screen employees in any matter they want that doesn’t violate your civil rights. The usual things like race, creed, religion, gender, and in some cases sexual preference would be areas where they would have to be careful.
If you could show that your poor results on such a test were the result of a disability, and you are being discriminated against for this reason, that would be a problem for the employer.
However, it’s not automatic. An employer doesn’t have to hire a cashier that cannot do math. or a juggler that doesn’t have arms.
Individual state labor authorities would govern whether a company would be required to show such test results.

Lonnie: What is the best way to copyright a song?

Joe Escalante: Before you attempt it. Read the FAQ stuff at the U.S. Copyright web site. It will make you smarter than me instantly because I don’t read it as much as I should. There are 2 different forms; one for the composition, and one for the recording of the composition. If you have a record label that paid for your recording, you probably can only copyright the composition. Here are two tips:
1. Register several songs at once on a single CD as a group of songs. You will save a lot of money that way.
Two: Don’t fall for any scam that says they will register the work you that doesn’t register it with the Copyright office. Some people will put it in a vault for you for $20 or something. That’s lame. Do it with the Copyright Office. Legalzoom can do this for you. They do it the right way. If you want to do it yourself, which is possible, at least look at all the info on legalzoom about copyrights first.

Christina: I’m in a partnership and I need a partnership agreement, will I need a separate agreement on top of the incorporation? And should I incorporate as an LLC or a Partnership?

Joe Escalante: Christina,
There is a lot of good info on legalzoom.com that is free about the differences between LLCs and Corps. It’s not advice mind you, but it’s free info. On my web site, www.barelylegalradio.com, I made a chart that explains the differences how I see them so check that out. It’s pretty complicated and you need to assess your individual concerns after reading up.
Basics are this: A Corp is more difficult to maintain than an LLC so I recommend LLCs for bands who can’t handle Corp responsibilities, but what are they missing out on if they go that way? Only their tax professional in their state knows for sure.

A partnership is really easy to put together and manage. However, it lacks tax advantages and personal liability protection. But some people get by with a partnership agreement and lots of insurance to protect their personal assets.

Carrise: I have a clothing line for women, and one for children and one for men. Would I have to register each seperately as an LLC or can I register the main one as an LLC and the other 2 as DBAs?

Joe Escalante: Carrise, that is a good question for your tax accountant. Get a good one familiar with your type of business. I would have a hard time understanding why you would need more than one LLC, but your tax person is the one to ask because they are going to do your taxes each year and it will all make sense to them. If your lawyer this stuff for you, then he has to do your taxes, and you don’t want that.

Allen: I am a defendant. If prosecutors use someone else’s name in place of my own, I have a public defender, the verdict has been read, and sentencing is being carried out, is that grounds for a mistrial or a retrial or…?

Joe Escalante: Allen, this would depend on the depth of their misuse of your name. Did they just bastardize it? Or were they referring to you as “Pauly Shore” or “Bozo The Clown” or something like that, amounting to an mockery of justice. Was it true mistaken identity or just clarical errors that wouldn’t change the outcome if it was retried with the correct info.
Trust your public defender. They have a hard job and get abused by people for a living.

From Rose: How do you start a class action suit?

Joe Escalante: The rules for class action suits vary from state to state, jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The best thing to do is hire a lawyer that has won a lot of class action suits. Start at the top. Call Erin Brokovich’s office. She wont have time for you, but she (or someone like her) will have lots of associates that are approved by her. If your case is good, a good class action attorney will be glad to take it because they will make a lot of money. If it’s not good, and they want you to come up with the costs, drop it like a bad habit.

Lynnia: hey Joe, can Legal Zoom make out wills for the military that will be legal even when we move out of this state? or will we have to update every time we move?

Joe Escalante: Perfect question for Legalzoom’s customer support since that would be fact based info and not really legal advice.

Stan: Do those folks finding themselves in default on home loans “have a leg to stand on” with the fact that their mortgage paperwork is “all screwed up” between being sold, traded and otherwise mis-handled? Might they “have the advantage” in a forced renegotiation or other avenue of rate and payment reconstruction?

Joe Escalante: Stan,
The problem is that if you get a Unlawful Detainer notice and are ordered into court, you are at the mercy of the judge on the bench at the time. He or she will look at the evidence presented and they don’t have to rule according to what’s going on in the news regarding what the mortgage companies have been accused of. They will look at the evidence in front of them, and they have the ability to order the to rule against the homeowner and have them kicked out by the sheriff almost immediately.

Question from Marquaze: Can a first offender’s felony record be expunged?

Joe Escalante: That depends on how many tattoos the offender has on his or her face. hahahaha. I’m funny. But really, if anyone was every going to get a felony expunged it’s more likely for a 1st offender. But it’s not automatic. It’s a long involved process. It happens. My former friend got one. He sold cocaine to an undercover cop wearing a wig. We were still laughing about it when he got released from prison. But now he can vote. Congratulations to him.

Jacinta: Hi Joe, I have a question. I own a business, it’s an llc, within this biz I am building several brands, do I copyright or trademark the brands? To be more specific I have a candle product for instance, different scents, so if I were to trademark the brand are the different scents covered or do I have to trademark or copyright each product or scent seperately under that brand? I hope I didn’t confuse you?

Joe Escalante: Jacinta,
You will get a trademark for something like “Jacinta’s Candles.” That will protect you from other people calling their candle companies “Jacinta’s Candles” to hijack your good name and confuse the public. You cannot copyright a name. So to protect the names of different candle scents you would have to use trademark but that would get expensive, but that’s what big companies do.

Coca-Cola probably holds a bunch of trademarks on all their soda brands. Can you trademark a scent? No. But you could patent a scent if it was a special formula deserving of protection. IF you just combine peculi with avocados that’s probably not enough. Think of the secret formula for Coke, or KFC. However, remember that usage of the marks is what really determines ownership. So if you are using the names in interstate commerce, you have a certain level of protection. Official trademark registration offers more benefits but you are still somewhat protected without it.

A question from Joe to Joe: If there is a deed restriction on a home in an association (no renters) and the association fails to enforce that restriction, is the association liable for the potential loss of property value due to rental properties?

Joe Escalante: Joe,
2 things:
1. you would have to establish that the association had a duty to prevent homeowners from renting out their properties.
2. You would have to prove damages. That would be very difficult. Values go down for many reasons. Maybe you have dream catchers hanging from your eaves and that’s the problem. Prepare for a fight. Might want to call in a gypsy catcher.

Lea: What is the best way to catch up on taxes (filing and setting up a payment plan)?

Joe Escalante: I assuming you are asking if you should get one of those attorneys that say they are going to cut a deal for you. Before I would do that, I would ask them for the names of 10 people they have helped. I would randomly contact 3 or 4 of them and see what their results were. There are some shady attorneys out there.

Kathy: Hi guys…wondering if Joe takes legal questions concerning community property laws in WA state or if not..a suggestion as to where to best get the legal help and answers needed…

Joe Escalante: Kathy,
IF you’re talking about divorce, legalzoom’s documents are great, there’s a lot of info there for all the states. I’ve had many friends who have used legalzoom for their divorces and they all were very pleased and none of them knew anything about their states laws before the process. That’s the best place to start. You might have a complicated divorce that will require a team of many attorneys but start at legalzoom first.

Erik: I just found out I have a bench warrant for failure to pay child support in another state. How should I handle it?

Joe Escalante: Erik. 1. Apologize to your little ones, buy them a pony if necessary. too personal? sorry.
call the court and ask them how to proceed. Don’t answer the door unless you know who it is.

Another Joe: Why did you become a lawyer?

Joe Escalante: Joe,
I wanted to be important. What people don’t know before law school is that the job kind of sucks. The only happy lawyers I know are the ones that work for the D.A. or as public defenders. By the time you borrow all the money for lawschool it’s too late. But law school is fun so I recommend it for people who have parents who will pay for it, but if you have to take out loans, make sure you know exactly what the job involves.
I was lucky because I was hired by CBS TV right out of law school and got to see Bob Barker almost everyday with napkins sticking out of his collar.

Joe Escalante: Thank you everyone for your questions we’ll do this again next week. If you can’t wait, and your question has something to do with intellectual property or show business, call my show on Sunday on KFWB in Los Angeles, AM 980 at 5 pm PST. 888-539-2980. And please visit my web site, www.barelylegalradio.com you can email your show biz questions from there and read my blog and comment on it and find other stations carrying my Barely Legal Radio Program.

Get more info and all the details and fine print about Free Joe Fridays. And join us on Facebook this Friday at 10am PT for more Free Joe!

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October 27th, 2010 at 7:46 am